Review: Re-Volt (N64)

In this review, we break out the controllers for the N64 game Re-Volt. We find out how well this racing game plays.

This game was released in 1999. It would go on to inspire a number of other games with a similar concept.

In this game, you play as remote control cars. Unlike many other racing games, you aren’t going to be spending your time on some real world inspired race track. Additionally, you won’t be racing through some exotic locations in different countries. Instead, you’ll be racing in otherwise seemingly mundane locations such as super markets, museums, and neighbourhoods. Since you are playing in a set of RC cars, everything is, of course, massive, and will bring on its own set of challenges.

There are a number of different modes found in this game. These include championship mode, single races, time trials, stunt arena, practice mode, and, stunningly, a full fledged track editor.

The main mode is naturally going to be the championship mode. Most modes offer the chance to set the physics difficulty. This ranges from RC Junior which features reduced speed and simple collisions all the way up to simulation mode which gives you full speed and realistic collisions. If you are new to the game, then it is definitely recommended that you set the game to Junior RC which will offer you the maximum sized reflex window.

From there, you get the opportunity to select from a small set of cars at the rookie level. While these cars offer the poorest stats in the game, these cars are by far the easiest to control. After you make your selection, you’ll get to select which championship you want to take on. Each championship is unlocked in order of difficulty, so you’ll start with the bronze championship.

In the races themselves, you get to take on three computer opponents. The better you place, the more championship points you earn. Get the most championship points by the end of the race series to win.

Along the race track are a number of bolt icons. These bolt icons are your weapon and power up pickups. What you get largely depends on your placement in the race. If you are in first, you’ll probably get some defensive weapons such as the oil slick and fake bolt pickups. Otherwise, you’l probably get an assortment of weaker items. However, if you are last, you’ll likely wind up with more powerful weapons such as the golden battery or the blue spark.

Oil slicks place a small patch of oil on the track. If you or an opponent hits the slick, they will lose friction on their tires and very likely spin out. Ideally placed in bottleneck areas for maximum effect.

Rockets can be obtained either as a single or a pack of three. Three means you can fire three separate rockets one at a time. The rockets will lock onto an opponent further down the track. Once locked in, you can fire and the rocket will attempt to hit its target. Not always a guarantee, but they do a reasonable job. On impact, they will explode in a fireworks. Any other car (including yourself!) near the impact zone will get hit as well.

A blue spark will race down the track a fair distance. Any vehicle it passes by will flip it around a number of times. Just know that it is possible for cars to land on their wheels and keep going.

The bomb is an interesting item pickup because it can both help and hurt you. Once you pick this up, your antenna will function as a fuse. Run out of fuse and your car will get hit with an explosion. The thing with this item is that it is possible to pass the bomb off to another opponent. This is done by a simple touch. After that, the opponent will carry the bomb and what fuse you have left. It’s especially effective if you are low on fuse and pass it off at the last moment, though this is difficult to accomplish. a simple hand-off is often the best you can do.

The golden battery is arguably the best item you can pick up. Activate it and you’ll begin to glow gold. Your speed will increase dramatically and allow you to pass opponents with ease. The effects are temporary, but definitely worth it when used right. Ideal for use on longer straight sections of the course.

Meanwhile, the blue bolt is actually static energy. Activate it and your car will glow blue. From there, any opponent you go near will result in an arc of electricity between antennae. The results of this is that your opponent’s car will be disabled for a moment or two. Best used when traffic is high.

The bowling ball is another defensive weapon. When used, a bowling ball will temporarily appear and gradually slow down behind you. If opponents hit it, they will be slowed down and forced to go around. Like the oil slick, best used in bottleneck areas of the course.

Water balloons come in a pack of three. Like the rockets, they can be fired one at a time. The difference between these and rockets is that they don’t lock on. Instead, they serve as a sort of dumb weapon which is fired directly in front of you. On impact, any car they hit can spin out or lose some steering capabilities. Best used when an opponents are just ahead of you.

Finally, the golden star. The star is used as a sort of smart bomb. When used, a blue flash will light up the sky, disabling every other opponent on the track for a brief period of time.

There is one additional thing you can pick up on the track. That is the track star. These stars are located in very well hidden and out of the way locations. Pick this up and you’ll immediately get a golden star pickup. The two unfortunate aspects is the fact that they can only be picked up once and that they are so out of the way, the resulting effects on opponents wind up not being worth it.

Accompanying you in the race are two directional helpers. You have a compass telling you which direction you need to go. The other directional helper is the direction icons. These tell you what the next area will contain (be it a left turn, right turn, or an obstruction with an “!” for example). If you head in the wrong direction, you’ll be shown a flashing “x”. While they are generally helpful, they are far from perfect depending on how you race.

If you complete the championship in first, you’ll not only unlock the next championship, but also a set of vehicles. In this mode, you unlock the most vehicles. It is also the only mode that unlocks the games tracks (track modes, however, unlocked separately). The championships are bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Beat platinum to beat the game.

The next mode of note is single race. Unlike championship mode, single race is just a matter of beating the race to win. Like championship mode, you can choose between the different modes of difficulty. Since it doesn’t matter whether you play on Junior RC mode or Simulation mode, you’ll likely want to play in Junior RC mode. What is unique about this mode is the fact that the game will scale opponents to what car you have. If you pick RC Bandit you’ll square off against other rookie cars. Use Cougar and you’ll face off against other pro cars.

The thing with this mode is the fact that completing each race will register a “win”. The more races you win, the more cars you unlock. So, if you are going for unlocking every car in the game, this mode is a must after beating championships.

The next mode of note is the time trial mode. Each track features a “challenge” lap time to beat. Beat this challenge time and you’ll beat the track. Beating these tracks will unlock more race modes in single race mode including reverse, mirror, and reverse mirror. Cars can also be unlocked in this mode.

One thing that is notable is that there is a bug in the game that allows time trial mode races to be completed more easily. If you select Junior RC mode in the last race you played, those changes will affect the physics of time trial mode. So, select Simulation in a single race, quit, then pick a time trial mode. You’ll get the full benefits of the increased speed from the simulation mode in time trial mode. Just try and keep the car as steady as possible and time trial mode can become quite beatable.

Practice mode may not seem like much until you realize that each track has a star to find. As such, this mode winds up being like an adventure mode of sorts. While you might think you know where all the star locations are based on your experience with championship mode, these stars are actually in different places in this mode. Find the star and you’ll “beat” the track. The more stars you collect, the more cars you unlock. Simulation mode is very easily an advantage here for the added speed to get some of the more difficult to reach stars.

The last regular race mode is the stunt track. This is a special course with many jumps, a loop, a half pipe, and other tricky obstacles. The thing, though is the fact that there is 20 stars found in this course. The idea is to collect every star you can find. Collect all 20 and beat the stunt track course.

Embedded in this game is a special mode found in the first menu. That is the track editor. While many credit Playstation 2 games like TimeSplitters 2 for introducing novel concepts like a level editor, Re-Volt actually beat that system entirely to the punch on that feature.

The track editor requires the use of the memory pack. While the track parts are a bit on the limited side, you can very easily get a full fledged track tuned to your liking out of it. Throw in hills, turns, obstacles, and intersections until your heart is content. When you are done, you can either race it in a time trial mode or against up to three other opponents. It is probably the only time I’ve ever encountered a loading screen in an N64 game, but the load times are short and the replay value of this is pretty much unlimited thanks to this mode.

First of all, this game offers a lot that makes this one an enjoyable game. The weapons system is very detailed and adds a nice layer of strategy to the game.

The difficulty curve is certainly well realized. Playing in the beginner races with rookie cars is certainly enough to allow players to begin to master the handling of the cars. In later races, spinouts are a problem, but this only gradually becomes a threat to your racing. Additionally, it all depends on which car you choose that can dictate how well your car can handle.

Many criticize the controls of the game. I can only agree that if you ramp things up and choose simulation mode and select the highest end cars. I do find the game a bit less than manageable, but if you are selecting some of the easier modes, the problem does get reduced. Spinning out is often the result of breaking while turning and high speed vehicles. Running into objects is often the result of not being used to the course. Opponents also run into objects as well. While the largest issue in the game, it isn’t as big of a deal some make it out to be.

The many race modes is certainly impressive. Between stunt track, time trial, championship, and single race mode, you already have a lot of hours you can log on this game. This is before you bring in the idea of a massive track editor which pretty much pushes the replay value up to as high as it can go. A level editor in the era of N64 is almost completely unheard of, yet this game manages to offer such an advanced feature to players. That is certainly an impressive accomplishment as far as I’m concerned.

My complaint about the game is the directional guidance system. This, I found, to be a rather bugged system. Sometimes, the directional arrow randomly turns into a different direction as if you are going off track. The reality is that you are going in the right direction. Also, if you are taking corners efficiently, some of the arrows will actually lead you into a wall. This is because you are blowing past the hidden checkpoints too quickly and the system can barely keep up. Of course, by then, you probably have a very good idea of the tracks themselves and don’t need the notifications any more. Still, it is a far from perfect system.

Generally speaking, this game has a lot going for it. The number of different race modes and the solid difficulty curve works quite well. While some criticize the controls, this depends on what mode you are selecting for the most part. It’s an issue, but a much more minor issue than some would have you believe. Meanwhile, the directional system is a bit buggy and somewhat poorly implemented, but again, a bit of a minor issue after a while. The inclusion of a track editor, however, is an impressive technical accomplishment for a game of its time.

Moving over to graphics, I’d say that they are very solid. The environments are very well decorated and varied. The special effects including lighting is well done. Even the menu system boasts some great eye candy such as the three toy cars randomly pushing obstacles around in the save menu. I actually spent a few minutes just watching them move around for some reason. The vehicles are nicely modelled and varied as well. While some point out the frame rate dropping, this game still offers some great graphics.

The audio is another way this game shines. While the music is similar to other ports, this game features completely unique tracks specifically for this system. In fact, it’s probably the best port for music as it features some great upbeat music mixed down with driving basslines and interesting samples to keep the action up. The sound effects are nicely varied as well. Not only do you have a small library of engine and sound effects from weapons, but also a large library of folly sounds from the environment as well. This includes the dog barking, alarms, and wild birds chirping. So, I would say this game boasts some impressive sound.

Overall, this is a great game. It features a nice weapons system and a huge variety of driving modes. The practice mode offers an adventure element as you track down the course star. The stunt course adds just that extra level of variety. Meanwhile, the track editor pushes the replay value to extreme highs. The graphics are great and the audio is definitely well realized. So, an overall great game.

Furthest point in game: Completed everything in the progress table (beat the game).

General gameplay: 21/25
Replay value: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 86%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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